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Now is the time we might model the early patriots and their faith

Recently I had occasion to do some research into the signers of the Constitution. In doing so, I confirmed what I had remembered from school – that there were two Catholics who had signed the Constitution.

One was Thomas Fitzsimons, a merchant from the Philadelphia area. The other was Daniel Carroll, who spoke some 20 times during the Constitutional Convention and was a close collaborator with James Madison.

When Carroll eventually retired from his political career, he and his good friend, George Washington, became business partners. A delegate from Maryland, Carroll defended his Catholic faith against the entrenched bigotry of that period just as he was working to help birth our nation. So it ought to concern every Catholic today that we are increasingly in danger of losing our liberty to be fully Catholic.

Readers may be familiar with the unprecedented attack on religious liberty that is the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate and of the continued pressure by this administration on the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious organizations.

But things have gotten worse. In December of last year the ACLU sued a Catholic hospital in California to force them to perform abortions on site. Though the case was dismissed, it was a shot across the bow because efforts are underway to undo the federal laws that protect conscience rights.

In June of this year, the state of California required that all health care plans must cover abortions. Religious employers objected and then petitioned HHS because this new rule violates the Weldon Amendment. This 2004 amendment explicitly prohibits states from discriminating against health plans or healthcare facilities that do not provide for abortions. Despite the plain language of the amendment, however, HHS refused to enforce the law and so rejected the petition.

In a separate case, lawmakers already are planning to introduce legislation after the election to undo the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal tax dollars from going to pay for abortions. It was passed as a way to protect the consciences of those in the United States who believe abortion is the deliberate taking of an innocent human life. But with the threatened repeal, we will all become party to abortion.

Last month, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights attacked "religious liberty" saying they were "code words for discrimination." His staff went on to argue that religious liberty laws designed to protect conscience rights should be defeated and mentioned specifically our efforts to be left out of participating in abortion. As was predicted, the HHS mandate was never just about contraception but about abortion.

Dear reader, Fitzsimons and Carroll saw participation in the American project as part of their duty to God and to neighbor. Theirs was a principled stand founded on their Catholic faith, despite virulent anti-Catholic bigotry. Our vote must be the same today.

As Catholics, we must be consistent in our ethic of life. Just as we may object to the state killing a criminal in our name, or using our tax dollars to pay for wars we may believe are immoral, we ought to object to the state paying for the killing of the innocent child with our taxes.

Just as one may think that a candidate’s position in favor of the death penalty or torture ought to be disqualifying, so too should a candidate’s position in favor of killing the unborn and forcing us to pay for it be disqualifying. So please vote your conscience and work to protect religious liberty and the dignity of all people, especially the smallest.

 

Omar Gutiérrez is manager of the archdiocesan Office of Missions and Justice. Contact him at ofgutierrez@archomaha.org.

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